Meet the Robinsons is one of the most underrated animated films I’ve ever seen. I’ve yet to talk to any friends outside my family who have watched it, despite the heartwarming, engaging, clean storyline and endearing characters.
Lewis is an orphan who loves to invent things, but as he approaches thirteen years of age, he begins to despair of ever being adopted. He’s had dozens of interviews, but none of the couples seem to think he’s the right one for them. More than anything, Lewis longs to know why his mother gave him up as a baby.
Then Wilbur Robinson, a fast-talking kid from the future, shows up at Lewis’s science fair and begs Lewis to complete his invention. Lewis is skeptical until Wilbur proves his story by taking him to the future to meet his crazy, but loving and loveable family.
Join Lewis on a delightful journey as he meets the Robinsons and learns to keep moving forward.
The main theme of the film — keep moving forward — was beautiful and well-articulated. As Lewis journeys through the story he goes from trying to regain the past he lost to working towards the future he knows he can have. And he realizes it’s up to him, as he’s told near the end, “you’ve got to make the right choices.” Also, seeing the future consequences of his thoughtless actions shows him how careful he needs to be about every aspect of his life. A little unkind action, a little unwise decision, goes a long way.
And the loving character of the Robinsons themselves is refreshing indeed in an age rife with dysfunctional, disjointed families. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and even those relatives that no one’s quite sure how to place, all live in one house, all eat at the same table. They share in each others’ joys, sorrows, and triumphs, whether it’s a successful business venture, or Grandpa finding his teeth. They embrace the lonely Lewis with a genuine love that is heartwarming and beautiful.
The sad story of the evil Bowler Hat Guy is touching and thought-provoking as well. He shows the inverse of the theme in a powerful way, throwing the blame for his wasted life on Lewis, rather than taking responsibility and moving forward. Once he is convicted of the error of his ways, his purposelessness is communicated very strongly.
In addition, the film is very, very clean. There is no romance, no violence, no language, no immodesty, no crude humor. A G-rated film with such deep and powerful messages is a rarity that I enjoy very much.
The main issue I have with this film is with the Robinson family. Sure they are loving and kind, and that’s a good thing, but the way they live their lives and fill their days is problematic indeed. Their philosophy appears to be “You should do whatever you want, as long as it’s not hurting you or anyone else.” Mrs. Robinson uses her life to teach frogs how to sing and play music–and it’s probably no accident that her son is disrespectful and irresponsible. One uncle claims that a puppet is his wife, while his children spend their days painting and skating. Another aunt and uncle dedicate themselves to playing with giant toy trains and shooting themselves out of canons, respectively. The father appears to be the only one in the family who is actually productive and does any kind of work.
The Bible tells us that he who does not work shall not eat, and also that life is about so much more than doing whatever you feel will make you happy. If you don’t have the Bible to guide you, then this lifestyle looks pretty good. Everybody’s happy. Everybody’s nice. They clearly have plenty of money, so what’s the problem? Apparently, you should only work if that’s what you, personally, like to do. If this is your philosophy, you’d better make sure there’s somebody in your family who likes to work, unless you like to starve!
As stated above, Wilbur Robinson is not a perfect son. He’s not horrible, but he is mildly disrespectful to his parents, and when he makes a major mistake by allowing the time machine to be stolen, he goes after it himself rather than talking to his parents about it. Besides not speaking well for his relationship with them, it was extremely foolish. He nearly messed up the future worse than it was messed up already. He does learn his lesson somewhat, but I wish it had been stronger, and that his relationship with his parents had been specifically addressed. Even his line near the end “I never thought my dad would be my best friend,” while sweet, leaves me wondering what’s so strange about his dad being his best friend?
As far as content, there were a few minor things that could possibly be objectionable. There are moments that might be scary for young children, involving dinosaur fights, people being wiped out of existence, and evil mechanical hats. One Robinson family member, Uncle Joe, is extremely overweight and acts in a way that may be upsetting to young children. While it’s beautiful to see families caring for their disabled, this guy is just plain weird and nobody acts like it’s anything abnormal, which could also be disturbing for kids. There is a mild alcohol reference when adorably dapper frogs with gangster attitudes visit their private bar. I personally found it funny.
The story gets two thumbs up from me, despite the weirdness. It is full of delightfully unexpected twists and turns, including huge shocking reveals along the way. The setups and payoffs are quirky and well done. The characters are believable and endearing. It is well paced and keeps interest in the most skeptical viewers of my experience. There’s a little too much odd randomness, but it is overshadowed by the more careful story elements.
The animation is also very well done. Hair, clothes and textures are believable, the stylization is charming, and the humans strike a fine balance between being too cartoony and too realistic.
The color palate is well thought out, using muted autumn tones for Lewis’s life at the orphanage, bright primary colors for the future world with the Robinsons, and something in-between for the Lewis’s return to the science fair.
Danny Elfman’s music was perfectly fitting, and is probably my favorite of his. I’m not usually a huge fan of Elfman scores, but he did a remarkable job weaving the quirky and the sweet together in this fun soundtrack.
I didn’t think I could get through this review without giving spoilers, but I believe I did it. I would give this film a seven out of ten. It has its issues, as do all films this side of Heaven, but in my opinion it is very worth watching for its innocence, wonderful storytelling and very inspiring theme.
Keep Moving Forward.